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Women in Global Agriculture. Statistics and Challenges

Agriculture is a cornerstone of global economy. It is powered not just by equipment, science, tradition, and innovation, but by many women’s handwork, which is often overlooked. Across continents, women play a pivotal role in nurturing crops, managing livestock, and sustaining rural communities. Their contribution into global agriculture is substantial. Yet, many challenges persist.

In this article we have collected meaningful statistical information focussed on the role of women in global agriculture and the inequality gaps that still exist in this industry.

Global Workforce

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately 43 percent of the agricultural labour force worldwide is made of women. In some regions and in developing countries, this figure exceeds 50 percent. In South Asia, more than two thirds of employed women work in agriculture. In eastern Africa, over half of farmers are women, whereas in Latin America and the Caribbean, the figure is slightly lower – about 24 percent. In Latin America, only 30 percent of rural women own agricultural land and less than five percent have access to technical assistance. Women production in developing countries is limited by barriers to finance, inputs, extension services and land rights.

As for the developed countries, the recent study The professional status of rural women in the EU (2019) shows that women make about 45 percent of the total working population and about 35 percent of workers in the agricultural sector of the EU-28. At the same time, Eurostat data suggests that only 29 percent of farms across the EU are managed by women.

Land Ownership

Despite their significant contributions, women often face barriers to land ownership. According to FAO The gender gap in land rights report (2018), less than 15 percent of landowners are women. The quantity of women landholders ranges from five percent in Middle East and North Africa to 18 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Also, women are less likely than men to receive a legal document proving ownership of their plots or to have their names on the land ownership document. This lack of land ownership limits their economic independence and decision-making within the agricultural sector.

In the context of land ownership, not only gender gap is worthy of attention. In a 2020 Welt Hunger Hilfe press release, we learn that ‘the richest 10 percent of the rural population currently controls more than 60 percent of land by value, while the poorest 50 percent hold just over three percent. This means that unequal access to land threatens the livelihood of around 2.5 billion people involved in small-scale agriculture.’ While ‘one percent of farming enterprises currently manage more than 70 percent of farmland around the world’, smallholders run over 80 percent of farms. The EU shows the same trend.

Income Disparities

The gender pay gap is pronounced in agriculture. On average, women in agriculture earn significantly less than their male counterparts. The recent Gender pay gaps among agricultural and non-agricultural wage workers commissioned by FAO (2023), states that the gender wage gap in favour of men is, on average, 18.4 percent in agricultural wage employment and 15.1 percent in the non-agricultural sector. Differences in education, sector of employment and access to full-time employment also contribute to this gap.

Empowering women in global agriculture is not just a matter of equality; it is an investment in the sustainable development of rural communities and the agricultural sector at large. By addressing systemic challenges, promoting gender-sensitive policies, and celebrating the achievements of women in agriculture, we can unlock the full potential of this vital workforce.

Our team also gathered data about women’s conditions and their roles in farming and processing activities, from which remarkable gender inequality emerged. Women face several issues, from lack of literacy to lack of land ownership, not to mention the equipment they would need to irrigate, farm, and refrigerate their crops properly. Support may come at national level but also from the global community.

Subscribe and follow us for further details of our trip to Côte d’Ivoire and our meetings with local farmers, women working in the fields, and many local stakeholders.

-Marina Novokhatska

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